Un Cachito de la vida

Un Cachito

"Technology/Computers" Archives

Un Cachito de la vida - A little piece of Cameron's life

June 26, 2008

More on Customs searching

Back in the beginning of May, I posted an article on some scary Customs practices of searching and/or seizing electronic devices of people coming into the U.S., especially people of a certain ethnic look.Fortunately, there are a lot of people (like me) who think this is an unacceptable invasion of privacy and have taken up the fight. Yesterday there was a Congressional hearing about it, and while it doesn't appear anything concrete came from it, there are some notable opponents to the practice. You can read more about it here.

Posted by charr at 8:16 AM

May 6, 2008

Scary Customs practices

I was stunned when I read this report in the Washington Post about how some customs agents are occasionally searching or completely seizing international travelers' laptops and cellphones. The government claims your laptop is like a briefcase and they have a right to search it. There are some lawsuits pending now against the govt. for this and I really hope the feds lose on this one. Not cool.

Posted by charr at 7:57 AM

January 9, 2008

A good phone

I've had a lot of cell phones in my life. I don't remember when I first got one, but it would have probably been back around '99 and possibly '98. For the most part, I tolerate phones, but by no means love them. My most recent experience with a Nokia E62 and AT&T wasn't pleasant. That was probably the slowest phone I've ever had to deal with and AT&T has horrible service at my house.I've been having my work pay for my phone in the past, but when I recently changed jobs, it became necessary to get my own service. Given AT&T's bad signal I opted for Verizon. There were several options for phones (which are unfortunately still stuck on CDMA instead of GSM), but I was able to work a deal with a kiosk at the local mall, and got the Blackberry 8130. I love it. The price was steep with data service, but I figure I can claim it as an un-reimbursed business expense. There's a bit of a learning curve, but I've found that nearly everything is customizable with screens and screens of options to change. It does email quick and easy, even if you don't have a blackberry server. It's fast too - very little lag. Call quality is alright and so is voice. It's also a great size that easily fits in the pocket - a must!So yeah, I finally found a great phone. If you're looking for a smart phone and can fork over a little money (I'm getting a rebate), I'd highly recommend it. Also, my brother has the cousin - the Blackberry curve and he loves it too.

Posted by charr at 11:22 AM

December 4, 2007

Upgrading FC7 to FC8

It seems like it wasn't that long ago that I was upgrading my FC6 (Fedora Core 6) to FC7 (or F7, Fedora 7). Now I've just gone to FC8 (or F8), and it was pretty easy. Again, I used the yum package updater to do it and here is my experience.I followed Carson's Directions over at the IonCannon blog until the final yum update. I also had to uninstall a couple of packages that gave grief on dependencies:
#yum remove beryl-settings
#yum remove heliodor

Things worked fine until that final update, which didn't work. It wouldn't retrieve any data. So this is what I did next:I did a yum clean all, and got an error:

# yum -y update
Could not retrieve mirrorlist http://poptop.sourceforge.net/yum/stable/mirrorlist-poptop-stable-fc8 error was
[Errno 14] HTTP Error 404: Not Found
Error: Cannot retrieve repository metadata (repomd.xml) for repository: poptop-stable. Please verify its path and try again

So, I went to that site in a browser, and sure enough, it didn't exist, but there was a yum/stable/rhl8 directory. At any rate, I went in to the /etc/yum.repos.d dir and saw that the pptp.repos file was the guilty one but that the "baseurl" settings appeared to be right (rather than the mirrorlist). I did another yum -y update, and then found it still complained:

# yum -y update
http://poptop.sourceforge.net/yum/stable/fc8/i386/repodata/repomd.xml: [Errno 14] HTTP Error 404: Not Found
Trying other mirror.

But that was easy, I just went in and on the repo lines, changed the fc$releaserver to rhl$releasever on all the applicable lines:
Old: baseurl=http://poptop.sourceforge.net/yum/stable/fc$releasever/$basearch
New: baseurl=http://poptop.sourceforge.net/yum/stable/rhl$releasever/$basearchNow the yum -y update worked.

Posted by charr at 12:29 PM

November 26, 2007

World Trip gear review

Well, in the past couple months I've been through some of the most arid desert land (Sinai) and jungles in 3 continents and in the South Pacific. I've been on islands, on boats, forded streams and climbed mountains. I've been around, so-to-speak and thought I'd give a few thoughts on the gear I took with me. Since this turned out to take up much more space than I would have thought, I've taken it off the main page, but you can see it by clicking on the posting title above for "World Trip gear review."

PackGregory Z55 (Blue)A-I used the pack more as a "more-portable" suitcase than as a pack, but I did do some hiking with it and it did well in all categories. It also fit in the overhead bins of most planes with a smaller footprint than many roll-ons, with airline agents of smaller, non-Western airlines being the biggest obstacle. I was worried that a strap might break from frequently carrying my 30+ lb load by one strap on occasions, but it held strong and was relatively comfortable. It has a zippered side-entry to ease packing and my only (minor) complaints are that it could benefit from a side water-bottle mesh pocket (which many packs have) and it's still a little difficult to get to things at the bottom of the pack.
HatREI Paddlers hatB+When I started buying gear, I'll admit that I started to panic about all the money I was spending and wanted to find a pretty cheap hat. I basically wanted a wide-brim hat to protect me from the sun. There were several options, but this was inexpensive (<$15) and seemed to do the purpose. It was light, cool and comfortable and my only real complaint was that the brim didn't stay straight or in the manner I wanted it. One side would be flipped up a little while the other side might be flat or tilting down. I would probably look for one that has a wire-lined brim or that has snaps to fasten the brim to the middle.
PantsREI Sahara Convertible PantsA-I took two pairs of pants on my trip and to my surprise, I liked the other pair the most. But these are still good pants. I've had them for a year or or and they are quite lightweight and water-resistant, with a number of pockets. If/when you get too hot, you can remove the legs and have some shorts to wear. I did that a number of times, although I for tall people like me, the resulting shorts aren't near as long as I would like. One other issue I had was with one of the zippered pockets, where the zipper had constant problems coming undone. That said, they are still nice to have and great for walking around in tall grasses or areas where you need just light protection.
PantsREI Adventures pantsAThese were actually my favorite pants on the trip and I got them for a nice discount on the clearance rack. They don't have zip-off legs or anything fancy, but do have 5 pockets in the front, with three of those being "hidden" zippered pockets. I used them frequently and they came in very helpful carrying a passport, cash and cards. And, I thought they were just really comfortable and I think they are the only trip clothing item I have worn since I got home.
ShirtColumbia Panorama shirtB+For the trip, I planned on taking a couple long-sleeved shirts and a couple short-sleeved ones. I needed the long-sleeved ones to be lightweight and wanted them to be able to roll up easily and have a fastener for the sleeves. I also wanted zippered pocket(s) on the front. My preference was the BuzzOff series from Ex Officio, but they were really expensive: ~$80. So, I got a couple of the Columbia Titanium series shirts instead, realizing afterwards that they were two different models. The first, and most expensive was this Panorama series shirt, which I got at Cabelas (near my house). It was comfortable and had a zippered pocket and seemed to fit the bill. I liked the shirt, but it had some problems. One problem was color bleeding. I didn't notice this until a cleaning lady washed it in Cameroon so maybe she did something, but since then whenever I was it, it heavily bleeds an orange-brown color (I had an orange-ish shirt), preventing me from washing it with lighter clothes and whites. This was annoying because I usually did my laundry in the sink and washed the different dirty clothes together to save on laundry soap. Another problem I had was that it seems to emit body odor more than the other clothes. I don't know why and maybe it was coincidence, but I kept noticing it. The third problem I'll mention is that the material snags. When walking through the jungle in Cameroon, there were vines that kept grabbing at me and my clothes. It didn't bother me too much except when I wore this shirt and it would yank threads out, causing problems elsewhere.
ShirtColumbia Silver Ridge II shirtAThis shirt was simpler than the Panorama and made of a different, more nylon-y material, and only had velcro-fastened pockets with no zipper. However, I got it for a steal on the REI clearance rack and enjoyed wearing the shirt. Like the pants, it was just comfortable and light, but sturdy. I'm not sure what all to say, but I don't really have any complaints and I liked it.
T-shirt B-I made the mistake of bringing a regular T-shirt along. Josh went out and bought some synthetic T-shirts made by UnderArmour. I thought it was a waste of money, but in hindsight it was probably a good choice. My complaint that gave the bad grade here is that when wet, they take forever to dry. That of course depends on the climate, but they don't dry easy. Josh's synthetics wicked off moisture easy and dried relatively quickly and that was often a factor on the trip as we were near water or doing laundry frequently. I learned for some of my other clothing that wearing it would help it dry faster, and by the end of the trip, I would wear the wet T-shirts in order to dry them out.
BootsLowa Renegade II GTX (2005)AAlthough I give these boots great marks, I'm not completely certain I'd bring them again. As boots they are great - very comfortable, waterproof (except when wading through streams that go up to your shins), and not too heavy. They don't have the sturdiest support, but that also makes them more comfortable. That said, they are boots and take up a lot of space inside a pack, as well as add some weight. They're also a bit pricey, although I got them about 30% off at an REI sale. For most of the terrain, I was fine in sandals, and when climbing a mountain peak in Fiji, I really wished I had brought my boots on the hike. That said, in the places I wore the boots, the natives were always in flip-flops or barefoot. Decide what terrain you'll be in and only take boots if you think you have to have them for that terrain.
SandalsTevaBMy Tevas were well used on the trip and I'm very glad I brought them, but they are several years old and I would have benefited from having some more appropriate ones, especially for areas where you are replacing boots (see above). The ones I have use thick leather bands and have a cork sole with a fairly rugged, hard-rubber bottom. My complaints are that they took a relatively long time to dry out when soaked, they would smell not-nice at times (the cork seemed to be bad at absorbing odors), they were a bit heavy and they didn't have great ankle and foot support. If you want to do this trip and only want one pair of footwear, get some kind of sport sandal that dries quickly and has more support for your foot. Josh brought some Chacos with the toe loop, and he liked them, but for rugged terrain you'll likely want more support.
Clothing InsecticideSawyer Clothing Treatment (permethrin)B+Since I didn't want to fork over a bunch of cash for the BuzzOff shirts, Josh showed me I could soak my clothes in this stuff and get the same protection. So I did that. Each bottle of this stuff is supposed to treat one pair of pants and one shirt. I got two bottles and soaked both pairs of pants, both long-sleeved shirts, a couple handkerchiefs I brought and my hat. The stuff is toxic and that made the treatment process a little trickier, along with the fact that there doesn't seem to be near enough liquid to do the job, but I got everything treated. It's supposed to be good for 6 washings, so I figured it'd be great. For the most part it did do fine and mosquitoes wouldn't land on my pants or treated shirts. However, it didn't last for 6 washings (I just know mosquitoes would land on the clothes near the end of the trip). Also, while it repels mosquitoes fine, it doesn't repel many or even most other bugs like biting flies. Additionally, it can irritate the skin a bit if in close contact (like the brim of my hat). Note that the instructions discourage use of the treatment on undergarments or in close proximity to skin, so I'm kind of on my own there.

Posted by charr at 2:35 PM

September 7, 2007

SElinux and mail servers

For those that don't know, SElinux is supposed to make servers more secure. I think the main reason is because it makes everything not work! For a while, I've been living with tons of SElinux audit errors/warnings on my mail server but as things still worked, I decided not to bother with it. Until now.This is what I was seeing (on several services):

Sep 7 16:49:42 mail kernel: audit(1189205382.693:2459): avc: denied { unlink } for pid=22150 comm="imapd" name="cyrus.index" dev=sda2 ino=4732920 scontext=system_u:system_r:cyrus_t:s0 tcontext=system_u:object_r:var_t:s0 tclass=file
Sep 7 16:49:42 mail kernel: audit(1189205382.983:2460): avc: denied { read } for pid=22150 comm="imapd" name="cyrus.squat" dev=sda2 ino=4732957 scontext=system_u:system_r:cyrus_t:s0 tcontext=user_u:object_r:var_t:s0 tclass=file
Sep 7 16:49:43 mail kernel: audit(1189205382.984:2461): avc: denied { getattr } for pid=22150 comm="imapd" name="cyrus.squat" dev=sda2 ino=4732957 scontext=system_u:system_r:cyrus_t:s0 tcontext=user_u:obj
Google actually didn't help much here, at least with the first pages of results, so I went hunting and discovered a command in Fedora 7: audit2allow. Basically, you give it the log with the errors and it will tell you the rules you need to add or even build a module you can easily load into SElinux. I chose the latter, creating a single module called mailserver for several services pertaining to running a mail server. This is what I did:

audit2allow -i /var/log/messages -M mailserver

which creates the module, and then

semodule -i mailserver.pp

to load that module. And it worked. That easy!

Posted by charr at 5:03 PM

September 5, 2007

FC6 to Fedora 7 Upgrade

I've upgraded Fedora Core 6 (FC6) to Fedora 7 (FC7) with yum three times now I think and my last attempt was riddled with problems, so I thought I'd try to document my problems a little.My first attempt went well, except that afterwards I scanned my rpm database for FC6 packages so I could remove them (rpm -qa | grep fc6). I had done the same with FC5 packages when I upgraded to FC6. Well, it turned out that FC7 actually included packages labeled with the fc6 tag that they decided weren't worth renaming. So, I basically screwed up my box my removing all those and ended up just reinstalling from a CD.My second attempt was on a mail server and it actually went pretty well except that it changed a db version for my users IIRC and it took some help from a friend to get it going.This time, the upgrade took about 2 days and a lot of fighting as I tried to make it work. I started by following this page, and upgrading the fedora version RPMs. I then did the yum -y update and it failed over and over on dependencies, saying mostly that it didn't have python(abi) = 2.4. That should be included in the python 2.4 package, but it appears it is missing in my python pkg. Short solution (after a day) was to upgrade python itself with yum -y update python. It failed too on the python version, but I just uninstalled a few packages that depended on it (like livna-config-display) and kept note of those. Once python was updated, everything else updated fine. I also got a bunch of strange HDD errors during the upgrade, which killed it several times, but I moved my yum cache (/var/cache/yum) to a different directory and sector on the HDD (by tarring it up and untarring it elsewhere) and that seemed to fix the problem.So I was good to go, except that the system now wouldn't boot. It would give me errors like these:Unable to access resume device (/dev/hda3)
Creating root device
Mounting root filesystem
mount: could not find filesystem '/dev/root/'
Setting up other filesystems
Setting up new root fs
setuproot: moving /dev failed: No such file or directory
no fstab.sys, mounting internal defaults
setuproot: error mounting /proc: No such file or directory
setuproot: error mounting /sys: No such file or directory
Switching to new root and running init.
unmounting old /dev
unmounting old /proc
unmounting old /sys
switchroot: mount failed: No such file or directory
Kernel panic - not syncing: Attempted to kill init!
I had to remove the "quiet" keyword from the grub boot line to see the real problem - and that's where I saw that it had converted my drives from IDE to SCSI notation (hda ->sda). Once I saw that, I could go in and edit my grub config file and the /etc/fstab file and was good to go. Now I need to find out why starting Google Earth restarts my X server!Hopefully, someone wlse will find this useful too.

Posted by charr at 4:31 PM

August 20, 2007

Network problems

So, over the last couple months, and especially the last few days, access to my site has been spotty. I apologize for that and I think I can proudly say (crossing my fingers) that it's mostly fixed. The small network I help run has grown and several subnets were trying to run on the same network and trying to go through the same router. In short, it was a little bit of an electronic packet rats' nest. I've also been out of town the past week and a power outage took everything out. I finally took a little time this afternoon and got vlans setup and subnets isolated and I think things are happy for the meantime. I still need to get a UPS put in, but hopefully the network is solid now.

Posted by charr at 1:39 PM

August 2, 2007


So there's a girl named Morgan Webb who has is popular in the geek community who has started her own video site for news updates called WebbAlert. It's very well done, and to put it gently, she's easy to watch - has great screen presence. Anyway, it looks interesting enough to watch continuously (it's a daily 5 min snapshot). There's a little review here at TechCrunch. And here is the first episode:

Posted by charr at 2:18 PM

June 6, 2007


I just found a cool new utility after reading this article at Anchordesk. It's called nuTsie, an anagram of iTunes, if you didn't catch it. nuTsie allows you to upload your iTunes database (just the XML file, not the songs themselves) to their server and after you install a little (~190K) program on your cell phone, you get to play them. The program is in beta and there are rumors of legal violations with Apple, but it's pretty darn cool. I have my cell phone with me everywhere, but never use it's speaker, which is actually a decent speaker.The phone I currently have (after my nice Cingular 8125 was lost and stolen), is a Nokia E62. It's got some things I like and dislike, and it's really slow, but nuTsie installed easily and is very cool. The only problem I had was that you couldn't hear any of the music. Oh, I guess that's a big problem. And yes, my volume was all the way up. It turns out, you have to enable "Warning tones" in your phone's current profile. After experimenting with different settings and some embarrassment as my phone started blurting out music at full volume, I figured it out. Now it's a handy media player, always with me.

Posted by charr at 12:12 PM

May 6, 2007

Stop paging

I've mentioned before the annoyance and "conspiracy" of long voice mail intros/headers on cell phones. Part of the message is to leave a page or "callback" for the person. Thing is, who even does that? I may have used it once, mostly curious about what it was. Everyone's got call history on their phone now and you can send a text message if you want to provide more information.Well, do you know that you can disable it? This was forwarded to me and while the steps may slightly differ, it shouldn't be hard to figure out how to disable paging. So do the world a favor and shorten the never-ending lecture requisite to just leaving a quick message:Go into your voice mail as though you are checking messages. When you get your main menu options, press 4, then 2, then 7, then 2.

Posted by charr at 5:32 PM

March 8, 2007

Mobile Google Maps

How would life be without your cell phone? For some it's not a problem because they don't have one. For me, it'd be really difficult. I'd feel naked. Same with living without email. What about Google? I started using Google when it was in beta long before it became a common verb and I never looked back. It's my most useful site. I find Google Maps to be indispensable as well, and much more powerful than the previous standard of Mapquest. In fact, I was surprised at how fast and complete my conversion was. It'd be great to have on my cell phone too, except that it requires more power than my phone can take.So now come with me to the historical section of Philadelphia where I just was. I had seen the sites and was hungry, determined to have a famous Philly Cheesesteak. A friend had recommended Jim's as the best, but I couldn't find South Street for the life of me as it wasn't on the little map I had, but I tried. I had my iPod with me, so I sang as I walked and walked and walked, all over. No luck, so I finally went to Campo's which I had passed earlier and was supposed to be good. It was, but as I was sitting down eating my food, I felt challenged and went to Google (I'm fortunate enough to have web browsing on my phone) to type in a query for Jim's. However, that's when I saw a simple text string under the Google logo that said, "Maps on Windows Mobile." My interest was immediately piqued. I followed the link and it automatically identified my phone model and gave me a link to download and install Google Maps for my phone. It couldn't have been easier. Once installed, I pulled it up and I just have to say it's friggin' awesome! I wish I were a teenage girl and could justify a dozen exclamation points there. :) It's much faster than I would have thought and very simple to move around with my stylus, just as with the mouse in a normal web browser. It also does GPS which would be seriously cool if I felt like shelling out a bunch of money for a GPS device for my phone. But anyway, Google gets a perfect 10 for this; I was seriously impressed and will now consider this app indispensable from now on. Kudos to Google!

Posted by charr at 4:26 PM

March 3, 2007

Free your vmail

I've wondered some times about how annoyingly long voicemail introductions often are. I'd think people who could change it would try to make it better. Little did I know it's a conspiracy. Cell phone companies get to charge you for when you're listening to the message (because you're using air time listening to it). That's $$ in their pockets. On top of long vmail instructions, sometimes it's just inconvenient to dial into voicemail to retrieve a message. Well, technology is catching up and there are some promising solutions as mentioned in this article about ways to convert voicemail into email. I haven't tried any of the services yet, but it's tempting. One of the services costs $10 a month (probably too much for me), but the other, Spinvox will have a yearlong free trial. Just send an e-mail to [email protected]

Posted by charr at 7:18 PM

November 11, 2006

Upgrading FC5 to FC6

I wrote most of this post a couple weeks ago, but went out of town before I could test anything, so here it is after I've booted into it.After stumbling my way through a previous upgrade from FC4 to FC5, documented here, I figured it'd be a little slicker this time. Here's what I did and issues I ran into:

  1. Upgrade Fedora release package (it complains if I don't install release notes also):
    rpm -Uvh fedora-release-6-4.noarch.rpm  fedora-release-notes-6-3.noarch.rpm

  2. Get all the new packages (which may take hours):
    yum -y upgrade

  3. Reboot

It was pretty much that easy, except now that I've rebooted, my mouse won't work properly. It is slow, jerky and doesn't always follow the direction I'm going. It happens this way in both X and in GPM. I can't run "setup -> mouse" or "system-config-mouse" because it appears the rhpl mouse module is no longer included and those tools won't run without it. I filed an entry at fedoraforums.org but as I haven't seen any similar problems around the Internet, I'm not confident. Wish me luck or omniscience.

Posted by charr at 11:38 AM

September 15, 2006

Kernel fights

You could call this sibling rivalry, but it's not about popcorn. This is about Linux kernel problems - basically two closely related kernels that are giving me fits. In short I'm having bizarre connectivity problems between 2.6.17 and 2.6.5-7 (Novell SLES 9). I'm running a 2.6.17 FC5 kernel. The servers I'm trying to access are running SLES 9 SP3, which is a 2.6.5-7 kernel. I can ssh in and then it either hangs displaying the MOTD or will hang as soon as I type a command whose output takes up more than about 1 line of the screen. At that point I have to force disconnect. This has been gnawing at me for months now and hurting my productivity (especially with scp). I'm getting around it by logging into another box first (running an older kernel), but it's driving me crazy. I realize I could set up an ssh tunnel, but I want things to just work normally.With some experimentation, we found it's not just the FC5 version of the 2.6.17 kernel either; a friend is running a Debian install with 2.6.17 and has the same problem. He was able to back-rev to 2.6.16 and the problem went away. Unfortunately, I can't figure out how to back-rev my FC5 kernel, though I'm sure there's a way.

Posted by charr at 1:18 PM

June 15, 2006

Thumbs down for Geek Squad

I consider myself fairly savvy with computers and associated things, so I'd never feel the urge to use the Geek Squad - Best Buy's pay-a-lot-of-money-for-a-techy program. Well, I just had a bad experience with them yesterday and whereas I was neutral before, I would not recommend them to anyone now.A couple in my church group had a wireless network that was apparently set up a while ago (probably months). They asked around at church a bit to see if anyone could hook things back up for a little extra cash. I volunteered, though I declined monetary payment. On a tangent, I read a guy say that after being taken for granted, he always charges for his computer services, even if it's food or something else - just so they know it's not for free. I thought that was a great idea, so I settled on a dinner or two. Anyway, the set up took longer than I thought, largely because when the GS came out before, they changed passwords and WEP keys, etc. but left no usernames or passwords. None at all. I couldn't believe that, but I think I read elsewhere on Google where that was the case. I don't want to go into all the details, but this couple was eventually able to get some information, which was helpful. However, they were not given a username and password to log in to the wireless router. That's important. I spent a while on the phone yesterday and talked with a girl who was very polite, but refused to help me with my questions (Can you tell me what the password is that you set on my box?) because the warranty was out of date. This is a password they set but didn't write down anywhere. They apparently don't have standard passwords either.At any rate, I wasn't too happy with the call. To every question, she politely refused to help. So, I ended up just resetting the wireless router to the defaults and starting over. The moral is that customer service matters and if an organization isn't willing to help their customers on (what I would think are) obvious things, they don't deserve my business or recommendations.

Posted by charr at 4:42 PM

May 4, 2006

Bad Router! Bad!

You can see that the website is back. It was really only down for maybe an hour or so if you were inside my firewall. For better or for worse, most of you aren't :). I spent most of yesterday trying to battle the new Linksys 2700HG DSL router Qwest gave us. It has some nice features and but lacks some dead-obvious ones as well, relying on its intelligence (sounds eerily like Microsoft). For instance, while there are lots of choices and security settings, there is no obvious way to view any logs. It was only after some searching today, after all the work yesterday, that I was informed there is an unlinked-to URL on the router you can type in that gives you a few more settings (like logging functionality), though still not everything I needed. Qwest phone support was pretty much no help and once the guy found out I had Linux boxes running he kept saying "we don't support Linux" irregardless of the fact that it was problems on the router, not the servers. Basically, the router refused to see one of the machines behind it, only looking for it's old IP address. I did some kluge-y things such as telling the box (which has a static IP) to force-grab a dhcp address and then change it, and that eventually worked. Next time let me have access to the functionalities that should be obvious, please.

Posted by charr at 8:52 AM

March 24, 2006

Upgrading FC4 to FC5

I think it was Monday when the new Fedora Core 5 (FC5) came out. For those who aren't familiar with Fedora Core, you can read about it here. It's basically an open Linux distribution that usually has a lot of the latest technologies. Anyway, I've been running FC4 and wanted to go to FC5. For kicks, I thought I'd try just doing a software upgrade through yum (yum is RedHat's online package update tool). I usually do not do "upgrades" when I upgrade because you're left with old files, rather I generally wipe clean and reinstall. But agin, I wanted to see what happened. I first tried a simple yum upgrade. That didn't do much - just pretty much did what a yum update does - update existing packages in your existing distribution version. So, I went to the all-knowing oracle called Google. I found and then tried to follow this page. I installed the release package for FC5, and did another yum upgrade. It didn't really do anything but print out some standard messages about sources and said there were no packages to change. Or so I thought. I looked closer and saw there was a problem connecting to one source. That usually shouldn't stop things, but I went and moved that source to a different directory. Then I tried the upgrade again. This time it didn't give errors about connecting to sources, but still said there were no packages to update. Or so I thought. Looking a couple more times, I saw that it was saying there were multiple sources for an "upgrades" keyword, or something like that, although they looked fairly benign. I'll mention here that I had several external sources besides the standard Fedora ones in order to get some other packages. I moved all of these to my backup directory and then tried the yum upgrade yet again. I looked close this time and there were no errors, for real. But there were also no packages to update. That couldn't be right I thought, so I started reading more about yum. I learned there was a way to clean it's cache. I tried that, but no change. I tried a couple other "clean" arguments, but still no luck, until I tried yum clean all. When I did the yum upgrade after this, It started finding thousands of packages to update.This took a long while - downloading headers for new packages and then resolving dependencies on them. Turned out at the end it complained about conflicts with packages initscripts, kudzu (conflict with a kernel), and xine (conflict with something else). I got around the xine problem by just uninstalling it, but it wasn't so simple with the other two. I tried numerous things, including the hint from the page above to go to the latest FC4 kernel. Problem was, I was already there - running a 2.6.15 kernel. Basically, one of the packages was complaining about a conflict with kernel < 2.6.13 and the other about a conflict with kernel <2.6.12. I tried manually downloading and forcing the install of those two packages, but that still didn't work. I tried some other things, and then received an epiphany. There were a number of old kernels installed on my machine and it turned out these were the ones causing the problem. I did a yum remove ... on all my old kernels and voila! the dependencies were resolved and it started to download some 1700 packages at just under 1GB. I let it go for a while, but then noticed it hung after installing package 156 (which happened to be grep). I let it sit for a while but it became clear it wasn't doing anything and wouldn't respond to ^C or ^\ either. So I killed it. Dead. Yes, Linux gives you some evil powers (hehe). Anyway, I restarted and let it run through the night. In the morning, it had completed and I rebooted.When it came up, it only came up to a text console and not the default graphical. I did a startx and X started, but just gave me a blank blue screen - no session. I played around and found out it had set my default init level to 3 but couldn't find out why it was failing on creating a session. I tried on multiple users: same problem. Logs said it couldn't run the Xsession binary, but I could run it manually (and get a blank screen again). Then I got curious and found out I couldn't ping anyone - not even localhost. That means somethings typically whacked. Long story short(er), I found out selinux was causing the problem and I disabled it in /etc/sysconfig/selinux and rebooted. Problem solved!

It looks like these are common problems and there is now a Fedora wiki that lists these exact two problems, along with a fix for the latter one.

Posted by charr at 9:15 AM

February 28, 2006

Windows boot delay

There have been many times when I've hit a problem, spent a while trying to solve it, solved it, and then hit the same problem later while not remember how to fix it. So in the spirit of productivity, I want to document to myself what I do sometimes.In this instance, I'm running Windows XP Pro and I had the auto-login enabled for a particular user (though I think it happens when the password box is there also). Anyway, the machine would boot up to where it displays the desktop background and where it would normally display the icons and load startup programs. However, my machine would sit there for a minute or more doing nothing. I had a surprisingly difficult time figuring out what this might be, and I tried many things in vain. After some debugging with the very useful msconfig utility, I found out the delay is caused by the Workstation service due to mapped or cached network drives that can't be reached. I think I went into "My Network Places" or "Network Connections" and was able to simply delete the mounts or cached drives and voila! that fixed the problem.

Posted by charr at 10:46 AM